Encouraging users to participate, which is one of the reasons of why the social media is so hot, is a very important concept in social media studies. However, there are some debates about it. Some people perceive that the excessively strong user participation brings unprofessionalism and chaos to the media while others believes that it is beneficial for the development of both the media and the society. This article aims to explore the significance and challenges brought by the social media participation. In this article, firstly, the primary forms of social media participation will be discussed. Secondly, both the advantages and disadvantages it brings will be analyzed. Finally, how the theory of social media participation is related to my campaign and improve it will be illustrated.
The primary forms of social media participation
There are various participatory forms in social media. However, among all of them, “UGC” and “UCC” are the most universal (Hinton, 2013, P.55).
“UGC”, which is the abbreviation of “user-generated content”, is the content that users forward from others (Hinton, 2013, P.55). Almost in all of the social media, users could forward others’ contents easily, such as their photos, videos and articles. However, in this concept, users who “generate content” are only disseminators but not creators.
Compared with “UGC”, in social media practice, “UCC” is more common and important. “UCC” is the abbreviation of “user created content” (Hinton, 2013, P.55). However, not everything that users create could be called “UCC”. As Vickery (2007, P.18) states, in social media practice, there are three standards of “UCC”: firstly, they must be published over the internet; secondly, they should be improved or created but not only copied or forwarded by the publishers; thirdly, the contents are usually created outside of professional routines and practices. What is more, always, they are published without an institutional or commercial market context (Vickery, 2007, P.18). In other words, in this concept, the publishers are the origination of what they spread and they usually publish them without commercial or political purposes. Under the standards, anything that users publish in social media could be called “UCC”:
it could be a photo in which the user is kissing his girl friend; itcould be an article about what the writer want to say to his parents; it could be a video on the journey; it could be a song sung by himself.
Compared with traditional media, in social media, users become from “consumers” to “produses” (Hinton, 2013, P.57). As Vickery (2007, P.18) claims, the creative motivations of users are various, which include “connecting with peers, achieving fame, notoriety or prestige, and expressing oneself”.
The significance of “UCC”
As one of the most important participatory forms in social media, “UCC” has positive influences on the development of both the industry and society.
Firstly, it provides the opportunity of “crowdsourcing” to organizations, especially non-profit organizations. As Holst (2015) defines, “crowdsourcing” is “the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers”. As a result of the popularity of “UCC”, the public intelligence could be used to resolve problems for organizations. One classic example is Wikipedia. As an internet encyclopedia which is operated by an non-profit organizations, instead of employing professionals to edit its contents, it allows and encourages users to create contents and revise existing contents (Hinton, 2013, P.62). In 2006, 4.6 million of its articles were edited by the users (Vickery, 2007, P.37). Now, it becomes the largest online knowledge repository in the world.
Also, in 2008, the National Library of Australia used “crowdsourcing” to help fix text from scanned newspapers for their Trove service (Hinton, 2013, P.62). It allowed every user who registered in its website to edit them by themselves (Hinton, 2013, P.62). As of February 2009, 2.2 million lines and 104000 articles had been corrected by the online users (Hinton, 2013, P.62). As Surowiecki (2005) states, “under the right circumstances, groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them”. Also, Hinton (2013) claims that large groups of people can resolve problems which individuals can not. In other words, compared with employing professionals to do the work, for organizations, using “crowdsourcing” to resolve problems is more economical and effective. This is why “UCC” contributes a lot to the development of organizations, especially commonweal organizations.
Secondly, as the popularity of “user-created content”, a new industry emerges — citizen journalism. It is an important branch of “UCC” which is based on the social media. Also, it is stimulated by the development of smart phones (Hinton, 2013, P.64). With smart phones, people could record what are happening around them by photos or videos very easily. Then, they could edit them into news and post them in social media through phones very quickly. Compared with the journalism in the tradition media such as newspapers and TV stations, citizen journalism in social media has its own advantages. In the first place, it works with less limitations. It is well-known that in many countries, the traditional media is strictly regulated by the government. There are many limitations on what could be reported for the traditional media. In the field of citizenship journalism, the limitation still exists. However, it is not as strict as that in the traditional media. For example, in China, the problem of corruption is seldom reported by the traditional media without the government’s permission. But in social media, it is always reported by citizen journalists. Some times, the corrupt officials were discovered and arrested because of the report of citizen journalists. For example, in 2008, a photo about Jiugeng Zhou who is an official in Nanjing Government was posted in social media in China (The Telegraph, 2008).
In the photo, Jiugeng Zhou is at a meeting with a cigarette on his right hand and a watch wearing on his left hand. On the photo, the publisher wrote: his salary is only 1500 RMB per month; however, his watch is more than 100000 RMB and the cigarette he is smoking is more than 100 RMB per package (BBC, 2008). Very quickly, the picture was paid attention to by a lot of users. Then, more contents about Jiugeng Zhou were reported by citizen journalists in social media.
Very quickly, Jiugeng Zhou was investigated by the government. Finally, he was arrested because of corruption. This kind of examples are very common in China. As an important branch of “UCC”, citizen journalism plays a significant role on supervising the government.
The challenges “UCC” brings
Also, there are some challenges brought by “UCC”. For example, in “UCC”, in order to attract audiences, a lot of privacy information, especially celebrities’ privacy information is published, which violates their rights. What is more, a lot of false news and advertisements are found in “UCC”, which confuses the consumers. Additionally, from the aspect of “crowdsourcing”, most of the contributors are not trained or professional. Therefore, the quality of the job could not be guaranteed.
In my Campaign, I used both “UGC” and “UCC” to attract my audience. Firstly, I forward the information which is related to my topic from similar organizations (UGC). The advantage is that compared with the contents I create, these contents are more professional. What is more, I create contents by myself (UCC) to attract my target audience. For example, I set interesting questions about endangered species, through which I could interact with my audience. Also, I edited the introduction of some endangered species by myself, which includes pictures, videos and texts. Always, they are the most welcomed contents in my campaign.
BBC, (2008). China town given survey answers.
31 December 2008
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Holst, D., Kowalewski, T. M., White, L. W., Brand, T. C., Harper, J. D., Sorensen, M. D., … & Lendvay, T. S. (2015). Crowd-sourced assessment of technical skills: Differentiating animate surgical skill through the wisdom of crowds. Journal of Endourology, 29(10), 1183-1188.
Surowiecki, J. (2005). The wisdom of crowds. Anchor.
The Telegraph, (2008). Chinese internet vigilantes bring down another official.
30 December, 2008
Vickery, G., & Wunsch-Vincent, S. (2007). Participative web and user-created content: Web 2.0 wikis and social networking. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).